Karen Uhlenbeck Bio

Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck (born August 24, 1942) is an American professor and Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chairholder in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin.

In 2019, Uhlenbeck became the first woman to win the Abel Prize, for “her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems, the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics”.

Karen Uhlenbeck Trivia and Quick Info

 Karen Uhlenbeck Quick Wiki/Bio

Born August 24, 1942 (age 76)
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Residence United States
Nationality American
Alma mater Brandeis University
University of Michigan
Known for Calculus of variations
Awards MacArthur Prize Fellowship
Noether Lecturer (1988)
National Medal of Science(2000)
Leroy P. Steele Prize (2007)
Abel Prize (2019)
Karen Uhlenbeck Scientific career
Fields Mathematician
Institutions University of Texas at Austin
University of Chicago
University of Illinois at Chicago
Northwestern University
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Doctoral advisor Richard Sheldon Palais
Doctoral students Mark Haskins
Influences Shing-Tung Yau

Karen Uhlenbeck Biography

Uhlenbeck received her B.A. (1964) from the University of Michigan. She began her graduate studies at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University and married biophysicist Olke C. Uhlenbeck (the son of physicist George Uhlenbeck) in 1965. When her husband went to Harvard, she moved with him and restarted her studies at Brandeis University, where she earned a M.A. (1966) and Ph.D. (1968) under the supervision of Richard Palais. Her doctoral dissertation was titled The Calculus of Variations and Global Analysis.

After temporary jobs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of California, Berkeley, and having difficulty finding a permanent position with her husband because of the “anti-nepotism” rules then in place that prevented hiring both a husband and wife even in distinct departments of a university, she took a faculty position at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in 1971. However, she disliked Urbana and ended up divorcing her husband and moving to the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1976. She moved again to the University of Chicago in 1983, and to the University of Texas at Austin as the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chairholder in 1988.

In 2019, Uhlenbeck became the first woman to win the Abel Prize, with the award committee citing “the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics”.

Karen Uhlenbeck Research

She participates or has participated in research in the fields of geometric partial differential equations, the calculus of variations, gauge theory, topological quantum field theory, and integrable systems.

Karen Uhlenbeck Awards and honors

The many awards and honors won by Uhlenbeck include:

  • MacArthur Fellow, 1983.
  • University of Michigan alumna of the year, 1984.
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1985.
  • Member of National Academy of Sciences, 1986, the first female mathematician in the national academy.
  • Noether Lecturer, 1988.
  • Plenary speaker at International Congress of Mathematicians, 1990, as only the second woman (after Emmy Noether) to give such a lecture.
  • Sigma Xi Common Wealth Award for Science and Technology, 1995.
  • National Medal of Science, 2000.
  • Honorary doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2000.
  • Guggenheim Fellow, 2001.
  • Honorary doctorate from Ohio State University, 2001.
  • Honorary doctorate from University of Michigan, 2004.
  • American Mathematical Society Steele Prize “for her foundational contributions in analytic aspects of mathematical gauge theory in the papers “Removable singularities in Yang–Mills fields” (1982) and “Connections with bounds on curvature”, 2007.
  • Honorary doctorate from Harvard University, 2007.
  • Honorary member of the London Mathematical Society, 2008.
  • Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, 2012.
  • Honorary doctorate from Princeton University, 2012.
  • Abel Prize, 2019.
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